Here's a nifty idea...though it can also be seen as laziness on my part (you decide). You know those books that are published posthumously (after the author has passed away Einstein!)? Take the late, great David Foster Wallace (he of Infinite Jest fame), who just had a fine, brand new novel, The Pale King, published, though he committed suicide in 2008. Or, how's about the long dead author of the "Millennium" series, (a.k.a., that cute, tattooed punk/goth babe), Stieg Larsson, who may or may not have a new novel out...eventually. The publishers of said series, are in talks and in court, trying to get their hands on a supposed three quarters of a fourth novel in the series, on a laptop now in the possession of his partner, Eva. She has stated that finishing the book is a task she is capable of doing. Can you say, Ka-ching...Ka-ching...Ka-ching???!!!
"So? What Joey? Planning to write a book? To die soon?" Not exactly...though as Gilbert Grape was fond of saying, "I can go at any time." I was interviewed in May for a new arts and culture magazine called, ARTizone. I believe they were aiming for a Canadian version of JUXTAPOZ magazine (one of the best art mags out there), but alas, I just heard that the project has been "shelved for the time being". Thus, my interview has been banished to a Hell where unwanted magazine stories and interviews go to be tortured for all eternity.
So...I didn't die, but looks like the magazine did. But wait...I do have the "famous ARTizone interview manuscript" (what? Okay...not exactly famous...Yet!), that was never published, hidden away in my hard drive..."GASP!", you say (or maybe not)! See...note how I was trying to tie it all into the "published posthumously" thing, and with a twist to boot. Daddy knows you like those twists at the end.
I met the infamous Canadian Pop artist Joey DAMMIT! in his favourite neighborhood drinking establishment in downtown Toronto. Surprisingly, for an artist, he was not only on time, but was already there when I arrived, sitting at the bar, talking up an attractive bartender, and nursing what he insisted really was his first martini. Aside from the bartender, and a couple having lunch in the far corner table, the place was deserted. Perfect for a one on one interview. DAMMIT!, I have to admit, has been one of my favourite contemporary artists in the country for some time now, though we had never met before. He seemed to be in a particularly talkative mood (not out of the ordinary, or so I've been told), the Motown tunes were sounding great, and he had already ordered me my very own martini, so I was more than raring to go.
Where were you born?
I was born in Madeira, Portugal. I Immigrated here to Toronto with my family when I was but a wee tike of almost four.
Is Joey DAMMIT! a sort of stage name? Or is this your real name?
Oh yeah... completely my real name. NO! Of course it’s not my real name. I consider it more of an alter-ego, more like a Superman/Clark Kent thing. Being a marketing/self-promo whore, I realized that DAMMIT! ("last name ALWAYS in CAPS with an EXCLAMATION MARK!"...as he forever reminded me) would always stand out in print, and let me tell you…people remember the name better than …I dunno, Kowalski.
Did you grow up knowing that art was something you wanted to pursue?
Kinda...I knew from the age of 5 or 6 that I wanted, more like, HAD to be famous…rock star…writer…actor...artist. In fact why not all of them at the same time? I recall, watching, at a very young age, what must have been a mini-series of some kind on Leonardo DaVinci on TV. From that point on I knew that I wanted to do everything creative, be a Renaissance man like good ol' Leo. The funny thing is, and it's really quite ironic considering everything, and everybody thinks I'm just pulling their leg whenever I say this, but I was an altar boy who really did have every intention of becoming a priest.
So, what happened to your calling?
Puberty. At first anyway. I mean, what?! No women?! No sex?! Ahhhh, yeah... Adios Mon Signor! Soon after, it didn't take long to see just how much of a fairy tale, how hypocritical, how dumb this supernatural crap that we call religion really is. Look, don't get me started.
OK, next question then. What artists inspired you? Which artists excited you most?
I was certainly inspired by comic book artists first. “Fine artists”...and I so hate that term...only started influencing me in the last decade or so. Dave McKean's Sandman covers, Nick Bantock's Griffen & Sabine trilogy , film makers like David Fincher and David Lynch. I mean the opening credits of Fincher's film, "Seven", is so much more thrillingly creative to me than anything I've seen at the MOMA. Any time I'm in a creative funk, I put on that DVD, and watch the opening credits over and over again. Also, music, especially the work of Trent Reznor, with or without Nine Inch Nails, influenced me tremendously. If you listen to what Reznor did with the soundtrack to the film, "Natural Born Killers"? It's the audio version of my art work. Exactly like it. It's musical collage...Manic Montage.
So no one artist’s work struck and had the most impact on you?
No...not just one. I mean an artist should be influenced by many artists, you know, variety, spice o' life and all that. They should be influenced by all that surrounds them. Most people spend their lives sleep walking 95% of the time. Wake up...look, listen, touch. Who are my favourite artists? Ralph Steadman, Dave McKean, Robert Rauschenberg, Jean- Michel Basquiat, Francis Bacon, Andy Warhol and Caravaggio…but again, the art of cinema really influenced my vision and my art more.
How would you describe your images?
"Dark -Tongue in Cheek- Chaos Collage-Pop Art!" I mean, I hate labels in general, but if I have to, that'll do just fine.
What techniques are you using in your art pieces? I notice some great textures and collages.
It seems that with every show I do, I throw in a new technique or two. Too many artists find a certain style that they get known for, get comfortable with, and then never, ever move forward again. That's just plain playing it safe, and playing it safe should never go hand in hand with any art form. Me, I want to keep growing, or I would die of boredom. I love texture, layers and layers of collage. My work is really getting much more ambitious, for a lack of a better word. 3-D galore on the new stuff I’m working on, and I don’t mean like Avatar. I get bored very easily, I guess that's where the Renaissance man thing comes in. With mixed media, anything goes, thus, boredom never enters the picture. I use my own paintings or drawings, manipulated photocopies, collage, thickly layered posters that I carve off of street posts and construction sights. Textiles, t-shirts, and I'm really getting into adding found objects...oh, and I have always loved Catholic icons. Acrylics, oils, water colours, pastels - even my good old Crayolas are broken out occasionally. Fun? Wow!
What is your mission or goal when it comes to your work? What impact do you want it to have on people?
Most importantly, I want to entertain the viewer. I’ve always maintained that I’m as much an entertainer as I am an artist. I know...I know...that'll get the art snob's/purist's knickers all in a bind, but looking at one of my paintings should be like watching a film in a theatre. There is so much to look at, that even if you stare at it for hours, you’ll always find something new, something you never noticed before. My mission? Hmmmm...I want to be rich and famous while I'm still alive. I think I hear the purists whining again. To have enough in my bank account, that on a whim I can take a bunch of my friends off to Paris for dinner and drinks. Now, if anyone is thinking that I'm not "serious" about my art, well, they'd better think again. I'm as serious about it as you are, oh you long suffering, tragic, starving artist. The great writer Harlan Ellison said it best; "The meaning of life is doing something that you love so much, that you would do it for free, yet get paid handsomely to do it." Ditto. Look, I'm far from rich...far, but I've hit a point in my career that I can make a living doing just my art work. No full or part time job. I can pay the rent, the bills, put food in my fridge, and still have a little left to pay my bar tab. Don't listen to them kids! There is nothing romantic about being a starving artist! Unless you're still living in the '20's in Paris, that is.
Do you have a studio that you work in? Whereabouts?
I truly am the luckiest man alive. I live in a very large high rise, in my favourite neighborhood in Toronto, The Annex. Well, one day the superintendent, knowing I was looking for a larger space, took me down to the catacombs of the building. He showed me this area that used to be the gym, swimming pool, party room, even very old saunas in the mens and ladies rooms. Right out of a David Lynch dream sequence. It had caved in ceilings, rubble everywhere, like Berlin right after World War II. He said, if you wanna clean it up a bit, it's yours. Really? A free, humongous studio?! Like I said, luckiest man alive. I call it, El Corazon Negro de Diablo Studio, and that would make total sense if you knew the full address. And no, I'm not gonna let you print it.
I know you have had a long history with depression, and you don't seem to be at all afraid to shout about it. Trying to destroy that stigma, are you?
Yup! That stigma doesn't stand a chance. The sooner people stop being so afraid to voice this thing, the sooner we can nip the fucker in the bud. I notice it's getting easier now that a lot of celebrities are coming out of their mental health closet. That's why I love being connected with the Mood Disorders of Ontario, and Workman Arts. I'm over three years depression free, and honestly, never felt better in my life.
Speaking of which, you're involved with that annual Touched By Fire show at the Royal Ontario Museum, correct?
I've been on the Touched By Fire planning commitee right from it's debut show at the Gladstone Hotel in 2007. I am amazed, and yes, very proud, that within it's four year history it's moved on up to the prestige of the ROM. Honestly, I don't think any of us on the committee saw it coming. Not at this speed anyway. I think the secret to it's success is two pronged. The amazing people on the committee, it's really become a very tight family. Incredible how much sweat and passion they put into this event every year.Then there's the artists, who suffer from all sorts of mood disorders, and hundreds of them submit pieces for this juried show. You can't imagine how hard it is for some of these people to just try to get out of bed some days, believe me, I know. Yet, they find the strength somewhere, to create, photograph, and submit this amazing work.
It's become a passion for me, in fact I give the show, the people that all help make it such a success, full credit for the sudden disappearance of my depression. I believe this "something" finally gave me a purpose. Giving artists with mood disorders a chance to show in a gallery setting, in an iconic venue, where 700 people can see, and buy your art, is one of the greatest feelings a person can come away with.
And Workman Arts?
Same thing can be said about Workman Arts, and the fine folk over there. Incredible people who really, really care about people who suffer with mental health and addiction. I'm on their Visual Arts advisory board, and I get to not only show in their own annual art event, "Being Scene", which is actually a traveling art exhibition that usually can go for the full year, but I also get a chance to do some public speaking. Called, "REVELATIONS:Living Experiences with Mental Illness/Addiction and Creative Genius", It gives me, and a handful of other Workman Arts artists a chance to travel from one audience to another talking about our personal stories, our creativity, and successes. They're even giving me the chance to be an instructor of my own course called, "The Manic Montage & Chaos Collage". It'll be a 6 week course where I not only teach other artists the process of what I do, where they get to create their own collage works, but also a history lesson on the imprint of collage in art history. They have no idea what they're getting themselves into!
Wow! Busy Boy.
Yeah. Maybe too busy. I have a terrible habit of always saying yes to every project offered me. That habit has cost me of late. I haven't had a solo show of new works since April of 2010. I mean that's how I make most of my living, so my new year's resolution was, is to say "NO" much more often. You know who you are, and you have been warned.
So, can I ask if you have a new show coming up?
The answer is yes. Actually I'm about to get started on the very first piece for this show called, "ALL ABOUT EVE". It's not a pure solo show, it's a two person show with a friend, and terrific artist, Lorette C. Luzajic. She also works in collage, but our style's are very different. That should make for an interesting, and great looking show. I should have started on the new pieces a while ago, but I had to finish a few commissions first. One for a very well known celebrity...but don't ask, I can't tell you...yet. Believe it or not, I actually have been sworn to secrecy. I've been lucky enough to get quite a lot of commissions in my career, and you just don't turn them down. Not only do these personal pieces pay well, but it's always more of a challenge. You HAVE to please the client. I've also been very lucky that most of my client's let me run with their idea's. They seem to trust me with the finished piece. No complaints so far.
But the new show is certainly the top priority right now. I actually miss the whole process of putting on a new show. You know, coming up with ideas that go with the theme of the show, sketching, creating the pieces, the promo, the media...and the grand opening. And believe me, the openings are always Grand!
So I have to ask, what's the theme of this show?
Let's just say it has something to do with the female nude in art history, thus the title of the exhibit. The theme was actually Lorette's idea, knowing fully well I wouldn't say no to that particular theme of course. Smart dame.
When can we expect this grand opening?
Yikes. Did I mention how stupidly busy I've been? Lorette and I first envisioned it to open on my birthday, Halloween...but considering I'm just getting started on the first new piece, I'd say closer to Christmas, and hey, nothing says "the birth of the baby Jesus" quite as well as hot, naked women, no?
You'll get no argument from me . Let me end it with this question. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Exhibiting in interesting spaces around the world. Living in a nice apartment in Paris, with a fabulous studio loft in New York. Oh, and happily married to Winona Ryder, of course. My soul mate.
Joey DAMMIT! can be reached at www.joeydammit.com and email@example.com